While China may be getting most of the attention -- and the blame -- for a rash of recent toy recalls, the majority of problematic toys in fact come from other countries, according to a new Canadian study.
Toys made in countries other than China had a higher rate of recalls, on a proportional basis, according to the study by Paul Beamish, a professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario, and Hari Bapuji and Andre Laplume with the Asper School of Business in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
So while Chinese-made toys dominate the global marketplace, accounting for 86 percent of those imported by the United States in 2006, the study found they were no more a danger than toys made elsewhere.
Another surprising finding of the study was that design-related problems, such as the use of detachable parts, outpaced defects attributed to manufacturing issues such as the use of lead paint or toxic chemicals.
It's astounding to us this disconnect between the general perception that most of the problems are manufacturing and most of the problems are lead, said Beamish. People have got to get lead paint off the mind.
Manufacturing problems are actually the easier of the two to fix, he added. For manufacturing flaws, companies can tell suppliers to do more testing and not to use products such as lead paint.
On the design side, however, quality improvement requires the investment of additional resources, Beamish said.
One reason that quality of design can be compromised is due to a product being rushed to market, such as in the case of fad items, Beamish said, adding he's found that design engineers as well as the Consumer Safety Association are not surprised by the finding.
As well, there is just a greater volume of inexpensive toys available on the market than in previous years.
With just so much volume of stuff coming out of China now, it really is the world's workshop for many manufactured goods, and people started equating recall equals China, Beamish said.
Some of the recalls are absolutely China's fault, but not all the problems.
(Reporting by Naomi Kim; Editing by Rob Wilson)